Designing an Effective Preference Center

06-03-2014

Putting customers in charge of their email experience is one great way to engage and retain them. You can learn about their needs and tailor your campaign more effectively. One of the best ways to do that is to have a “preference center.” Information collected about your customer’s preferences will help you create a more personalized experience for them that could result in deeper engagement, a higher retention rate, and ultimately, better responses.

You can direct your customers to the preference center with your first welcome message after they’ve opted in so you can start getting to know them. And each of your subsequent emails can link them there. The preference center allows them to unsubscribe easily, but it can do so much more.

Your preference center can allow them to “opt down” and choose a lesser frequency of email delivery or change their topics of interest. They can choose how often they want to hear from you, and you might even let them choose what day of the week they’d like their emails. You can find out their interests and increase the likelihood that they will engage with your mailings.

A preference center helps your customer find a reason to stay by being reminded of the value of your content.

Contrary to what some email marketers think, you shouldn’t be afraid that someone will opt out of your mailings. In fact you should make it easy for them to do so with a prominently displayed opt out or unsubscribe button that offers a preference center beneath the unsubscribe option on the landing page.

Let go of the notion that you have to control your email list. Your customers want to make their own choices, and if they can’t find an easy way to unsubscribe or hone their choices, they might classify your mailing as spam. That can hurt your reputation and risk your mailings going undelivered.

The top reasons that people unsubscribe from emails can be classified under three categories: relevance, value, and frequency. Here are some elements and practices your preference center could have:

  • Change of email address.
  • Frequency of delivery (daily, weekly, monthly). Describe the options and the value and content they can expect from each.
  • Consider the option for a specified hiatus from your mailings. Maybe they need a break until the next holiday season.
  • Topics or product lines they are interested in with a strong statement of value for each.
  • The option to unsubscribe from all choices.
  • Have variations of your preference center. Don’t send customers who select unsubscribe to the same page as those who select to update their email address. Instead, you could take them to a preference center that says, “We are sorry to see you go, but maybe you would like to modify your preferences rather than leave us completely.”
  • Don’t ask for information you don’t need.
  • Make sure it is mobile friendly.
  • Have the option to receive text messages on their phones.
  • Some preference centers give instructions on how to “whitelist” the sender, giving instructions for a variety of email providers about how to insure they are not considered spam by the ISP.

While it is common to direct your customer to a preference center through an unsubscribe button, it would be better to get them there before they want out! Make your preference center link a prominent feature in your email footer.

Careful thought and design of your preference center can significantly increase your awareness of customer needs and increase the customer’s confidence in your products and how much they value them. You are not only building a brand and getting sales, you are also building what is hopefully a long-lasting relationship.

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